welcome to the september edition of the buddhist carnival, where we showcase treasures from the buddhasphere. today we have compassion and helping hands, cockcroaches, sleep, returning to the centre and a bunch of (no)selves. as always, let’s start off with a poem:
we dance around in a ring and suppose;
but the secret sits in the middle, and knows.
– robert frost
thank you, zenbananas, for giving this to the buddhasphere.
compassion – even when it is difficult
this blogger extends compassion to the person who ended the life of george tiller, who died earlier this year because of his commitment to helping women who need abortions
in mahayana buddhism, the bodhisattva kshitigarbha, best known by his japanese name of jizo, is the helper of beings who suffer in the hell realms and of children who die before their parents, including those who are stillborn, miscarried, or aborted. for the past day i have been thinking that jizo will protect dr. tiller, who did his best for the unborn whom jizo helps to good rebirths. as i was reading about him this morning, i realized that jizo will help the doctor’s murderer, too, if he wants to get out of the hell he’s in.
for the rest of the entry, read here.
and the new heretic makes friends with cockroaches
instead of swatting at and smashing and scurrying about the roaches so i could paint, i simply talked to them (yes i talked to them) or at other times just waited and thought kind words towards them, and asked them to move so i could paint… and they moved out of the way.
saradode shares an interesting dream; she reflects it was about betrayal, and makes a connection between the biblical judas and bddha’s brother-in-law, devadatta
as for devadatta, the scriptures…assign him a role that is similar to judas in the gospel story.
i understood right away that this was what my dream had been about. i kept reading, and came to the story. devadatta had become (or had always been) egotistical and ambitious, and wanted to take control of the sangha from buddha. he plotted to kill him, but that didn’t work.
the book described how devadatta then “decamped” with 500 or so of buddha’s monks, whom he had convinced that buddha had become “given over to luxury and self-indulgence.” as i read that part, my lip began to twitch quite violently (one of his ways of getting my attention), and i saw, again, “last supper.”
devadatta’s plan, however, failed, and the monks returned to buddha. the next thing i read stunned me:
some texts tell us that devadatta committed suicide; others that he died before he was able to be reconciled with the buddha.
this dream really intrigued me. my first thought was, how do we betray ourselves in life-denying ways?
return to centre
a beautiful image and a few quick thoughts on this topic:
“things get crazy and we forget to work from our center.”
so, i began to think, “how can i start to do that again?”
well, tonight, grace summed it up at the beginning of our meditation practice at blue heron sangha.
“tonight we begin as we hear the sound of the bell, returning to our center.”
somehow the realization came that we begin to work from our center again by returning to our center. and, how do we do that?
start with something simple. pay attention to something. anything. breath is always good.
sleeping and samsara
the goal of such practice is to experience the subtle level of consciousness, a ‘substrate consciousness’ from all mental stuff originates and into which it essentially returns. every one of us experiences this ‘substrate consciousness’ when in deep sleep, in dreamless state, there is no identity, no imagery, virtually nothing, as if our ‘self’ is dissolved into something more basic. similarly at the moment of death, according to buddhist thought, we experience this subtle essential state of consciousness. in a metaphorical way, we die every time we enter deep sleep. and then… from that subtle consciousness, from that non-discursive state – dream arises! a whole world, a whole new and compelling identity (it is new if you are not lucid dreaming, of course) is ‘born’, and with it a whole range of emotions, feelings, sensations and so on. as the first rem cycle is over, we ‘die’ again, return to the deep sleep. and then another dream arises, and with it a whole new world, which probably has nothing to do with the previous dream world, and is only marginally related to the world of our waking life. and then we die again…
the self – what self?
in a fabulous (and long) interview with zen teacher shinzen young, interspersed with illuminating videos, har prakash khalsa delights us with shinzen young’s take on the nature of the self and enlightenment as it is perceived in buddhism, hinduism, christianity and the jewish tradition. here are a few excerpts from his thoughts on the self:
hpk – when you say “the perception that a thing inside us called a self” goes away, do you mean completely away?
szy – the ambiguity is the word perception. the actual word is ditti in pali, or drishti in sanskrit, which i think you know means “view”, literally. in this context ditti or drishti refers to a fundamental paradigm, or concept about something. so in this case perception is perhaps not the best word. it’s more like the fundamental conviction that there is a thing inside us called a self disappears. according to the traditional formulation after enlightenment that never comes back. however, if by perception of self we mean momentarily being caught in one’s sense of self, that happens to enlightened people over and over again, but less and less as enlightenment deepens and matures.
i like to analyze subjective experience into three sensory elements: feel (emotional-type body sensations), image (visual-thinking) and talk (auditory-thinking). those sensory elements continue to arise for an enlightened person forever. sometimes when the feel-image-talk arises the enlightened person is momentarily caught in them but even though they’re caught in that, some part of them still knows it’s not a thing called self. that knowing never goes away. the frequency, duration and intensity of identifying with feel-image-talk diminishes as the months and years go on as you go through deeper and deeper levels of enlightenment. there are exceptions, but typically it takes months, years, indeed decades learning how not to get caught in feel-image-talk when it arises.
so to sum it up, what disappears at enlightenment is a viewpoint or perception that there is a thing inside this body-mind process called self.
… and more (or less) self …
ambud has a series of posts on critics of buddhism. here he, too, reflects on the idea of no-self, a concept that is hard to grasp for anyone, let alone critics who typically haven’t spent a lot of time steeping themselves in buddhist ideas.
the author stumbles and misstates his argument by equating anatta with nonexistence. buddhism isn’t nihilistic, anatta refers to soul-lessness; the idea of non-self in the ultimate sense. anatta isn’t an argument against a ‘self’ as defined by physical properties etc., of which we are all aware, it is instead, a statement about that which has no inherent existence, that which is caused.
if you have any articles you’d like to see here, let me know. the next edition comes out on october 15.
image by axel buehrmann